Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spreading the Werd of the Squealing Nerd: Animal Abuse or Neglect

May seems to be Animal Rescue and Awareness Month at the Balentine and McGee residences in South Texas. Many will remembered my post a few days ago regarding my husband and I helping to rescue a very small kitten. More than a little of our money and time has gone into ensuring her survival. How she came to be abandoned or picked up, we still do not know, but our attention, dedication and determination are unwavering.

Several members of my family and many of my friends have heard me talk about Marmaduke, the English mastiff living next door to my parents. Thursday, during the thunder storms and tornado warnings sweeping Bexar County and four surrounding counties, Marmaduke went without shelter and food. Unfortunately, that day was just like every other day for Marmaduke since he was brought home by that family. My aunt, Becky Bush, my mother, sisters and I refuse to believe that despite all of our efforts, nothing can be done by the city to save him.

The Case of the Curious Kitten: Tifa's Fight

You know that family that always seems to be rescuing animals? The one with all the cats? That's the McGee family. The McGees and the Bushes (my mother's family) have a long history of rescuing and raising animals. My Grandpa McGee always had animals. He had dogs, cattle, and more often than not, horses. My grandparents, Hannah and Donald Bush, and my aunt and uncle Roberta and Chuck Williams, live on the same section of land in Rossville, just two miles outside of Poteet, Texas. As far back as I can remember, litters of feral kittens have been cropping up on their property. Their lives were not always easy, but my grandmother, aunt, and my youngest aunt Joanna, always did their best to make sure food and water was available.

The habit of rescuing animals has not ended with my little sister, Jamie, and myself. My twin attempted to rescue a cat several times until her first daughter was born. My aunt, Becky Bush, owns several rescued pets and often assists her co-worker in placing rescued pets with good families. Pixie, my aunts cat, is a rescue. My family's cats, Milo, Piper and Sugar Cookie, are all rescues. Tifa, a nine day old female, is a rescue kitten whose life in the last few days has been wrought with pain.

Tifa at two days old.
Tifa came to us last Friday. She was two days old according to the vet my friend took her to. She was being bottle fed, but not getting enough food. We switched from a bottle to a syringe, making sure to dilute her formula with Pedialite. Once we began hydrating and feeding her, she began crying and moving around (signs of a healthy kitten) until May 9, when I noticed a large lump on her back. We immediately rushed her to the veterinary hospital, where we were informed that a bite had become infected and created a large abscess. The vet lanced and drained it and gave us antibiotics . The next day her fever was down, but her back was once again inflamed and full of liquid. After repeated draining, the abscess is healing. She still has trouble defecating, but other than that, Tifa is well on her way to being a perfectly normal kitten. Her eyes opened this last Wednesday, three days earlier than expected for a kitten her age. My little sister surmised that her early development is a survival tactic.

"She has to make a choice," she said, "Live or die. The fact that she's opening her eyes and moving around while she's still so young is to make sure she can see a threat and escape it. She's chosen to live."
Um, that's her eager face.

Tifa has put up the fight of a lifetime in only nine days. Without the help of our friends and family, she might have died seventy two hours after her birth. Hopefully this spunky little kitty will live up to her namesake. The other night she ran circles around us before peeing on me. I'll periodically post pictures of her so that you can see her progress.

"There's Nothing We Can Do,": The Tragic Life of Marmaduke

Marmaduke, Mother's Day
The tags on the collar of this seven-year-old English Mastiff say "Titus". My family has never called him that. To us, he has always been Marmaduke, named after the mischievous comic mastiff. His size deceives the casual on-looker to his true nature. He is sweet tempered and easily skittish. He likes meaty treats and enjoys playing with the tennis balls or raw-hide bones my sister and aunt give him. When my niece and nephew are in the yard, he watches them, following them from his position behind a fence he could easily leap should he take a notion to do so. When someone comes to our front door, it is not the sound of our German Sheppard and Rat Terrier they hear but the roaring bark of a grossly under weight, but still slightly intimidating, English Mastiff. For the last five years, we have thought of Marmaduke as our dog. The only thing separating us from actually owning him is that he is legally the property of the family next door. 

Unfortunately, Marmaduke's life has been anything but the happy one led by his comic counterpart. Ever since he came to live with the family next door, he has done without. He is fed enough to keep him alive. The Texas summers are unbearably hot, even to humans, and Marmaduke is without water more often than not. In two of the most intense winter's in South Texas history, including the first snow since 1985, Marmaduke has not been taken inside or provided with a shelter. His hips and back are sore and stiff from laying on the hard, unkempt earth of the family's backyard, without even a decent patch of grass to cushion him. His back legs are covered in lesions and sores from being dirty. He has fleas, which my aunt treats him for, and most likely heart worms, for which my aunt also treats him. We hand him beefy treats over the fence and fill his water bowl up from our hose. There are no windows on the side of the other family's house facing ours, so we feed him in our own bowls out of site of family, who has been incited to anger more than once by our meddling.

His ribs are visible under his skin, and his tail is
eaten up with a flea allergy.
Why haven't we tried to have him taken away by Animal Care Services, you ask? That's just it. We have. I myself have overseen one ACS pick-ups during the winter of 2007. My twin over saw one prior to that in 2006. The neighbors behind us on the block over have had him picked up by ACS. The problem with keeping him out of these people's hands is that he is pure bred, and when the family bought him, they put a chip in his lower lip that allows The Pound to locate his family. After every single pick-up, he has been promptly returned to his owners, who are never made to comply with the stipulations that they feed, water and shelter him properly. My sister and I made sure to make police reports regarding the neglect, which have so far gone unheeded. In 2007, after he was picked up at my request, the owner of the house retaliated by having ACS called to apprehend my cats on account of they sleep outside and have no food. The ACS agent, the same one that took Marmaduke at my request, told me he didn't see any cats on the premises. I told him there were many cats in the area. He tipped his hat and left. That same year the family next door was served with a fine for animal neglect. The court ordered Marmaduke to be properly cared for, and he was, for a while. One day the undersized shelter he was provided with disappeared and his bowl went empty for days.

The response from the City of San Antonio has been, "Its sad, but there's nothing we can do." I know this is not true, when there are so many agencies fighting for animal rights in San Antonio. I refuse to believe that there are so many animals in being rescued in the news, but there is nothing that can be done for a dog that is obviously being neglected. I do not understand why it is that this travesty continues when there are laws in place to punish those who abuse and neglect animals. Why is it a Felony B in San Antonio to abuse an animal, but only a Felony C to steal one? Why is that this has been allowed to happen? And not only that, why has it been allowed to happen again? This family is notorious for abusing animals. One day I came outside to feed and pet the beagle they had chained to their fence. One of the boys came out of the house and asked what I was doing. I told him I was feeding the dog.

"She has food," he said.

"The food is on the porch," I said, "she's chained up over here. How can she get to it?"

Seeming to take my side, and we fed the dog together. I asked him what the dog's name was. He said he didn't know, that the dog belonged to his aunt.

The next day I went to visit the dog, she was wrapped in the thin wire chain connecting her to the fence. She had wound herself up in it in an attempt to get out of it. After another two weeks of this, he aunt finally came and got her dog. I have no idea how she reacted to how thin her dog was, or why she was tied up out of site of the family.

The next dog they got was a Boxer puppy. To my knowledge she didn't have a name. By the time she finally died or was taken away (for I simply do not know), she had been malnourished, dehydrated and cancerous, with tumors erupting around her anus and tail.

Becky giving Marmaduke a treat.
He is leery of her after the heart worm medicine.
Mother's Day evening, my aunt fed and watered Marmaduke from a distance. She put heart worm and flea medicine on his neck and gave him treats. Yesterday, the step-father was having the air-conditioner worked on. Of course, with people around, he makes a decent show of giving a damn. Marmaduke had plenty of food and water. He seemed content to lay in the yard and watch them work. How do I know this? My family surreptitiously sat in our newly watered yard under the pretense of playing with our German Sheppard, Juno. My aunt watched him cautiously. When the step father walked by his dog, he barely favored him with glance. Marmaduke put his head down and drooped his ears, clearly afraid of him. The air conditioner man did not look at him either. It was as if he wasn't there, suffering and unhappy in the dirt. The man went inside and shut the door, closing the curtain so they did not have to look at him. When they had gone, Marmaduke went to my aunt to receive his nightly treats.

Despite that family's best efforts, Marmaduke persists, knowing that my family loves him and cares for him. It would be better, however, if he were in the possession of someone else. What makes matters worse, is that should he be taken and examined for re-adoption, God only knows what the vets would find wrong with him. He has never seen a vet except at ACS. He only gets medicated by my family. Heart worms could be plaguing him, killing him, and we do not even know it. The fleas on him alone would cost a small fortune to eradicate. His teeth are bad from lack of care. He is only seven, and he walks like he is thirteen. The tragedy of Marmaduke could be that no matter what we do to save him, he will die in the end, his life already ruined past salvation. For that, someone should be held accountable. I hold that family living next door, that family that  has idly sat by and allowed a life to degenerate in their own backyard, responsible for his death, even if I have to give the order for his euthanization myself. Their pets inside live in luxury and comfort. What had Marmaduke ever done to deserve being left alone in their backyard, filthy and hungry?

Even if I had him taken away and had have him euthanized humanely and cleanly, it would be better than the life he is currently living. I would take that blood on my hands as a sign that we had done all we could, that when we sent him to his death, he knew that it was at the hands of those that loved him and cared only for his happiness. How I hope and wish this is not the case, that he can be saved and find a loving home with my aunt or someone else who will love him as much as we do. Sadly I know that reality is probably too far gone. However, he cannot be allowed to suffer in his present condition. I'm putting the word out on the family next door. I am calling everyone to action. Please, if there is anyone out there with the means or the connections to find Marmaduke a savior, I ask that you contact my family and myself either through this blog or my email. If anyone knows an organization willing to take Marmaduke, please let me know. Any help is appreciated. For everyone else, keep Marmaduke in your hearts, as I do, and know that my words are choked with tears, even this many years into the ordeal, his suffering pains me anew.

Our pets look to us for love and comfort. Unfortunately there are those that find none. I cannot and will not tolerate cruelty.


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